Our first growing space is complete! We've been working at a relatively slow pace, which hasn't been a problem because of the cold weather we've had up until recently. Things are only just starting to come to life, and we have more beds on the way, so we're in good shape for the season ahead.
When we arrived this area was a dense grove of plum saplings, grown up among an impenetrable web of greenery. I don't have photo “before” we started clearing it because the thick wall of greens and browns wasn't anything noteworthy, and we hadn't yet planned to make a growing space there.
We made these beds with a one-dig method. Roughly laying out the size and shape and digging within those borders to remove any troublesome rocks — this land is characterised by its heavy geological deposits dragged in from ice-age glaciers, which historically has made it very difficult to tend and farm — and to pull up the thick plum tree roots tangling through the earth.
Once all the unwanted matter was removed, we filled the beds with organic material — mostly leaves and Bokashi compost — and covered the top back over with soil. And that's it. If you keep your beds healthy you shouldn't ever have to dig again, there's just.. no reason to disturb the topsoil and the intricate biome any further.
Aggressive soil disruption is a major problem when it comes to modern agricultural techniques. It's a process of rapidly diminishing returns that requires you to feed nutrients back into the land to replace what you've destroyed. If you're growing on a small scale your systems should largely be closed-loops which avoid this process entirely, and you shouldn't ever need to till or plow or turn over the land. Unfortunately it's these activities performed on a mass industrial scale — combined with monocrop/monocultures and over-grazing — that are causing soil erosion and land degradation globally.
There are of course a thousand other criticisms to level at the currently prevailing forms of mass agriculture: Foreign land grabs displacing local populations, which in turn increases pressure on neighbouring — and often already less secure — food systems. The loss of arable land post-agriculture forcing food scarcity refugee migration. The ongoing erasure of indigenous peoples and cultures. The global loss of biodiversity and species as a result of the wider ecological collapse caused by soil deserts and deforestation. The list is practically endless and touches on a dizzying array of socio-economic crises.
But now we're entering critical territory where my immediate actions find little purchase. So I'll focus on my growing beds for now.. I can always write a more detailed addendum later if I feel like exasperating myself.